May 19, 2023 | FEATURES | By Carlee Castillo

For many Colorado College students, college began on a screen. The COVID-19 Pandemic moved freshman year to my guest bedroom where – for the better part of the year – I was unsure if I would ever make friends, meet my teachers face to face, or sit in a classroom again. 

College was something to be looked at with fear and anxiety. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Now, as I’m about to graduate, college is reminiscent of love and excitement, and I would give anything for another year of it.

Graduating early, especially for CC students who began school in the year 2020, involves a much shorter college experience.

Talia Rotella ’23 is also graduating a year early.

Rotella said, “For cons, I’m bummed not to be graduating with my closest friends because they all have a year of school left.” Similarly, I won’t be able to spend another year on campus with my friends, but the relationships I’ve cultivated have been so much deeper and more meaningful as a result of my compressed education.

The financial benefits of graduating early are also significant. This factor was essential to both mine and Rotella’s decision to embark on this process. In addition, accelerated graduate programs following early commencement offer an even faster, economical education.

Rotella shared she is interested in attending grad school and, “could potentially have a Master’s and only do four years of school” after finding a one-year Master of the Arts program. The extra time of rest following an early graduation can also provide space for reflection and contemplation when considering pursuing careers or further schooling.

Although my time at CC passed more quickly than average, I was still able to slow down and make wonderful memories. Even with my first year online, I feel grateful for the extra time I was granted to spend with family. Furthermore, my time on campus introduced me to amazing friends and experiences, from picnicking to partying.  

My freshman year self would be shocked to discover how incredible college turned out to be.

When asked what she would tell her freshman-year self, Rotella shared, “I’m so proud of her. I wasn’t planning on graduating early, I only realized this fall that I’d be able to. But it’s because I started out focused as a freshman and I kept it up for the next two years that I set myself up to do this. And also, I’m proud of myself for putting myself out there and making such lovely friends.”

If I could comfort freshman year Carlee, I would tell her she’s braver than she thinks and that (almost) everything works out in the end. Once again faced with uncertainty, I feel afraid for the future. However, my short time at CC has taught me to embrace change rather than reject it.

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